Family values and family value

August 21, 1992

Republicans should talk as much about family value as about family values. There is no better anti-poverty program than marriage.

According to the House Ways and Means Committee, the breakup of a marriage and childbirth by single women are the principal reasons people go on welfare. Forty-five percent of all those going on welfare do so after divorce or separation; 30 percent of new people on welfare rolls are single women with new babies. The largest single category of people getting off welfare are those who get married: They and their children account for 35 percent of the people leaving welfare rolls.

One reason marriage is a good anti-poverty program should be obvious. Marriage often means a family previously without income now has it, or a one-income family becomes a two-income family.

A drop in family earnings is another significant cause of the poverty that forces a family onto welfare. Often that drop comes about when one of two breadwinners is laid off. Similarly an increase in family earnings -- often due to a second income being added to a first -- is the second most likely cause of a family's

quitting welfare.

This last shows the importance to many families of two working parents. This has become as much a "traditional" family as the sort that the George Bushes and the Dan Quayles represent. Both Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Quayle know this. Mrs. Bush said Wednesday night to mothers who had to work for their children's sake that they were "doing the right thing, and God bless you for it." Mrs. Quayle said, "Believe me, having a profession is not incompatible with being a good mother or wife."

So we do not understand why they lend their support to the innuendo and outright attacks on Hillary Clinton and, by implication, all working mothers, from so many members of their party's far right. This includes, from time to time, even the president and vice president.

Families don't acquire family values because of what their political leaders say to them or about them. The Bushes and the Quayles do not owe their good fortune to the rhetoric of the

presidents of their formative years. Nor do they owe their good fortune to the policies and programs of those presidents. Most Americans don't. But many do.

Though you would not think so from the tone of much of what was said in Houston this week, Republicans know this. The Bush administration has increased federal spending on several social programs at a greater average annual rate than the Jimmy Carter administration did. It has not been focused about it. It has not been comprehensive. It has not fought the pre-conditions of poverty and lack of values with the same zeal and competence that it has brought to the international arena.

If the president is re-elected, an "Operation Domestic Storm" would be in order. Promising such might even be the key to winning re-election.

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